Jiutamai is one of
the very few Japanese arts
that were created and
cherished by women.
In order to explain what Jiutamai is, first it is important to mention two traditional forms of movement: mai – rotation and odori – jumping. In English as in many other languages there is only one word to define DANCE. According to the written sources, the history of Japanese dance traces back for around 1300 years.
Mai features – rotation in a circle and stomping, performed as a prayer to gods or famous statesmen. Mai was also used to call the spirits of dead. Nowadays it is still performed: the Noh mai, kagura mai. Meanwhile odori is jumping up and down. It created an image that the dancer was taller. It is also mentioned, that one of the odori purposes was to send the gods and spirits back. Mai is more constrained and looks more elegant than mai.
Jiutamai was born in 19th century, in Edo period. Jiuta music performed by shamisen was inspired by mai dance, so these two genres merged together. Jiutamai is one of the very few Japanese arts that were created and cherished by women. It is a very subtle art with special attention to pauses. It was born from the girly manners and interests the girls used to have in the narrow room space, covered in tatami.
The most important things are – elegant movements of fingers and shoulders, eyes look, the ability to feel the space with the whole body. The scenography is not adjusted to the music – it is created by using traditional sliding door fusuma, sliding paper screens shoji, candles and their light is used to separate the world of dancer from the one of audience. The imagination of the viewer is stimulated by this simple view on the stage and the power of the dancer's eye look, which is left after the dancer covers all the emotional expressions with the white make-up. The dancer is telling the story with her own mind while using the elegant movements of her fingers, shoulders and eye look. The viewers react to the story, told by the dancer, in their own way. In this way, the Jiutamai world is being created. That is why jiutamai, the same as expressive reading, is always performed by one person.